SA’s foreign relations key to local development: Manuel

2063

National Planning minister Trevor Manuel says South Africa‘s major objective in its international interactions over the next five years will be the creation of an environment conducive to economic growth and development.

Explaining the five-year Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) for SA approved by Cabinet on July 1, the former finance minister said the document would be government`s “foremost frame of reference” outlining policy and programmes aimed at improving the conditions of life of South Africans over the next five years.

“The MTSF … is informed by the [ruling African National Congress`] 2009 national electoral mandate and outlines the government`s medium-term strategy to meet this mandate,` he told reporters in Pretoria this morning.

“As a statement of intent, the MTSF will serve as the principal guide to planning and resource allocation across all spheres of government. In this regard, focus areas and targets highlighted in the MTSF will inform the core elements of the budgetary submissions that national departments make to the government`s budgeting process, through the Medium Term Expenditure Council.

“Similarly, Integrated Development Plans of municipalities and the Provincial Growth and Development Strategies of provinces will need to take into account the priorities identified in the MTSF, thus bringing us closer to the ideal of integrated and aligned planning across the three spheres of government.

Annual review

“The MTSF [will be] reviewed on an annual basis at the July extended Cabinet meeting in the light of changes in the domestic and international environment and experience in actual implementation.

Manuel said that while the MTSF reflects medium-term objectives, the seven “Clusters of government” are finalising their contribution into a detailed Programme of Action, translating MTSF imperatives into a six-months government action plan, “leading up to the adoption of a Programme of Action for 2010 and the January Cabinet lekgotla.”


The Ministry of Planning in The Presidency is also developing a Green Paper on national strategic planning which will “define systems, processes and structures pertaining to national planning.

“Among others, it is envisaged that, during the course of the coming year, in interaction with social partners and the public at large, a long-term vision and development plan for the country will be elaborated, outlining the country`s broad objectives and targets for some 15 to 20 years,” Manuel said in a background brief on the MTSF that replaces a previous, three-year Medium Term Expenditure Framework.


Priorities

He repeated that government`s strategic priorities for the period to 2014 was as stated in President Jacob Zuma`s State of the Nation Address on June 3, namely:

1.      Ensuring more inclusive economic growth, decent work and sustainable livelihoods

2.      Economic and social infrastructure

3.      Rural development, food security and land reform

4.      Access to quality education

5.      Improved health care

6.      Fighting crime and corruption

7.      Cohesive and sustainable communities

8.      Creation of a better Africa and a better world

9.      Sustainable resource management and use

10.  A developmental state including improvement of public services

On ensuring more inclusive economic growth, decent work and sustainable livelihoods, Manuel said the main objective was “to respond appropriately, promptly and effectively so that growth in decent employment and improvements in income security are reinforced, and investment sustained to build up national economic capability and improve industrial competitiveness.” This has to be conducted in an environment of a stable macro-economy which provides conditions for higher rates of investment and creation of decent jobs.

On economic and social infrastructure the planning meister said the period ahead would see the state expanding and improving social and economic infrastructure to increase access, quality and reliability of public services and to support economic activities while also considering environmental sustainability and pursuing maximum employment impact. “The aim is to ensure sustained investment growth over the medium-term so as to achieve the target of a fixed investment ratio above 25% of GDP by 2014. Such projects will be spatially-referenced, planned for and implemented in an integrated manner. In addition, we will continue with programmes to provide and maintain health, education, library, sporting, recreation and other social infrastructure.”

Regarding rural development, food security and land reform the minister said between 10 and 15 million South Africans lived in areas characterised by extreme poverty and underdevelopment. “Recognising the diversity of our rural areas, the overall objective is to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy of rural development that will be aimed at improving the quality of life of rural households, enhancing the country`s food security through a broader base of agricultural production, and exploiting the varied economic potential that each region of the country enjoys.”

Looking at education, Manuel noted that it has enjoyed the largest share of the national budget throughout the past 15 years. “However, progress has not been optimal and the achievements have not taken place at the required scale. Our objective is thus to focus our skills and education system towards the delivery of quality outcomes.”

Turning to health care, the minister said the state would aim to transform the public health system in the next five years “so as to reduce inequalities in the health system, improve quality of care and public facilities, boost human resources and step up the fight against HIV and AIDS, TB and other communicable diseases as well as lifestyle and other causes of ill-health and mortality.”

Government is also “determined to curb levels of crime and corruption,” Manuel says. “Contact crimes, crimes against women and children and organised crime remain a key focus, and so is the combating of corruption. Key to our success would be of the comprehensive revamp of the criminal justice system (CJS), including the strengthening of accountability systems and enhancement of citizen involvement and community mobilisation in the fight against crime.”
“Social cohesion is important if we are to achieve developmental success,” Maneul added. “However, inequalities of condition and opportunity and weaknesses with regard to a sense of being part of a common enterprise, is placing severe stress and strain on social cohesion.” In this MTSF period, government would aim to meet its target of halving poverty and unemployment by 2014 and, in conjunction with other priorities, to strengthen human capabilities, promote shared values and social solidarity and strive to reduce overall inequality.

Regarding the “creation of a better Africa and a better world”, Manuel said the “main goal with respect to this priority is to ensure that our foreign relations contribute to the creation of an environment conducive to economic growth and development domestically, within Africa and in other developing countries.” Implementing NEPAD, promoting SADC regional integration, strengthening South-South relations and pursuing a developmental and investment-orientated approach to engagements with the North, are key aspects related to this priority.
“Like the rest of the world, we are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss and diminishing water resources,” Manuel says. “Interventions will include, amongst others, diversification of the energy mix in pursuit of renewable energy alternatives and the promotion of energy efficiency, enforcing a zero tolerance approach to illegal and unsustainable exploitation of resources, supporting local and sustainable food production, and promoting sustainable water use and preserving the quality of drinking water.”

Lastly, a developmental state requires the improvement of public services: “In the previous mandate period, government committed itself to improving the capacity of the state for growth and development. This remains a priority.” Challenges include capacity gaps in local government; poor quality of some of our public services; declining trust and confidence in public institutions such as the judiciary, legislatures and the executive branch of government; and weak planning capacity across the three spheres of government. “As we strive to overcome these hurdles, our long term goal remains the building of an effective and accountable state as well as fostering active citizenship.”



Recession

Manuel also indicated that he expected the current global recession to continue “at least up to 2010”, with “the concomitant negative implications for investment, employment, incomes and government revenue”.

There is a danger that the burden of the crisis may be placed on the shoulders of the poor, deepening poverty and inequality, he warned.
“Consequently the MTSF emphasises the centrality of a growth path which addresses the economy`s structural constraints, expands the industrial base and creates decent work opportunities on a larger scale.

“The core activities identified above, as well as the MTSF as a whole, will benefit all sectors of society: but at the same time, there will be instances where sacrifice may be required from all social partners, especially in the initial phase which demands more ‘defensive` interventions,” Manuel warned.

He added that Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation minister Collins Chabane and his staff were already drafting “key outcomes for each MTSF priority is being developed.



“Ministers will be required, in a detailed and systematic manner, to account for performance of their departments to the President,” Manuel said.